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Gore Tour: Day 3 of 30 Days on the Road – Part 3

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Part 3 is the final part of the Gore Tour section of Day 3 of 30 Days on the Road. About time, as I need to catch up on everything that been going on since then.

I found the Q&A section extremely helpful in forming an overall picture of Gore. This was some of the “big picture” time, stepping back from the focus on the products and looking at Gore as a whole. This was a lot of talking, so fewer pictures in this section. One of the things that is fascinating to me about Gore is their dedication and commitment to the end product. Gore is rather unique in that it doesn’t sell and end product to the consumer, but they guarantee those end products. They’re able to do this because of the host of tests and quality assurance steps that we went over in Parts 1 & 2. I’m sure there are other companies that operate like this, but I haven’t found one. Since everyone loves car analogies, think of it as if a steel company were to guarantee that your new car would be free of defects, and if anything happened to the car because of the steel, the steel company would have you a new car within a few days. Gore’s warranty is “No BS,” if you’re unsatisfied with any aspect of the Gore-Tex technology in a piece of outerwear, they’ll do whatever they can to make it right, whether that’s a repair, replacement, or a refund. On top of that, Gore says that their product warranty is less than 1%, compared to an industry average of around 6% (I haven’t verified these numbers, they’re straight from Gore).

The first question we spent some time on was how Gore compares to other similar products. The four types of waterproof barriers used in today’s outerwear are Microporous Coatings, Monolithic Coatings, Bicomponent Coatings, and ePTFE.

Microporous Coatings
are polyurethane coatings with air pockets in them. The number and arrangement and quantity of air pockets determine both breathability and waterproofing.
Monolithic Coatings are continuous or laminated polyurethane; less breathable, more waterproof.
Bi-Component Coatings are a mix of Microporous and Monolithic Coatings, with a monolithic coating on the outside to prevent water from entering the garment, with a microporous layer to help it breath.
ePTFE is the membrane that Gore and their direct competitors like Event use. Gore stresses that it’s not simply using the material, but how the material is processed and used, and that just because something is ePTFE doesn’t mean it’s the same as Gore-Tex.

Event vs Gore-Tex Breathability

Event vs Gore-Tex Breathability

This created a big sidebar, with a few bloggers asking some questions about the specific differences between Gore-Tex and Event, citing Event’s research that says Event is 2x more breathable than Gore. Gore argues that there are flaws in Event’s testing methodology, and that Event’s chart doesn’t show the whole picture. There are some graphics Gore had that I’m hoping they’ll make public because it really helped explain what’s going on in regards to Gore and Event. The most basic explanation is that the absolute ideal temperature for Gore is cold and wet; Event’s tests were done in dry, hot weather, that you would have to be mad to wear a jacket in. This led to a cool demonstration with two cups of steaming water, two outerwear samples, and a piece of clear plexiglass. The blue circle of cloth is Gore, the black is a piece of Event. When the plexiglass was placed on the fabric it would fog up from the moisture coming through the fabrics. To the human eye it is almost imperceptible, both fog at basically the same time.

The next question asked if Gore would be developing a “price-point” version of their material, lower cost, but maybe doesn’t work as well. The straight answer from Gore is “No.” The testing and guarantee from Gore basically prevents this, as they don’t want a poorly performing piece of “Gore-Tex Light” to detract from their branding work or their reputation for quality.

A number of questions centered around the environmental aspects. The biggest takeaway is that Gore doesn’t “greenwash,” meaning they don’t publicize what they’re doing for the environment. They want to be known for their technical offerings, not for being green; being green is just part of who they are. They took us through a list of the various things that Gore has done to promote efficiency, but the number one component is durability. In their view, if Gore makes products that last twice as long as the industry standard, they’ve made a huge impact on the environment in the long run.

Everyone outside the Gore store

Everyone outside the Gore store

The Q&A session completed the technical aspects of the trip, but there was a bit of fun still ahead. We piled into a bus, and Gore took us on a shopping spree at the Gore store; we were all able to pick out something from the store, up to a $300 value. The Gore store is a great shop, and unique from most company stores in that it has gear from many different companies, all united by their inclusion of Gore-Tex. I snagged a bright blue Burton AK 3L jacket that I had been coveting for a while.

Once everyone was back on the bus we made our way to downtown Philadelphia for a City Hunt scavenger hunt. This was loads of fun, but as I told Gore, I would have traded it for 3 more hours of checking out the Gore facilities. We had a great team, and it was fun to cruise all over Philly checking out the sites; we ended up coming in second, which I think was actually the winning position because I didn’t have to fit the silly trophy into my carry-on bag. Finally we made our way to dinner at Moshulu, a restaurant on a boat (T-Pain did not make an appearance). The dinner included most of the Gore employees we had interacted with, and was a great way to wrap up the trip. There was plenty of time to chat with the various employees and ask additional questions.

The night wrapped up with a group of us back at the hotel bar. Over the course of a few beers the discussion ranged from search engine optimization, to effective use of social media, and on to the average height of leprechauns. The group of bloggers Gore assembled for this event was awesome, and one of the great side benefits to this trip is that it developed a great support network of similarly wired people from a bunch of outdoor sports.

Thanks for following this saga. I had no idea this would turn into a three-part blog and back up the posts so much; in the remaining days of 30 Days on the Road I’ll probably spin stuff like this into articles, and keep the blog posts a little more simple and on time.

If you’re looking for more information I recommend you check out Gore’s Quality Testing website.

I feel it is important to mention that W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. covered expenses for this trip. In return they’re obviously getting coverage of the trip, which they wouldn’t have received otherwise; it works out to pretty cheap advertising for them. I’ve tried to prevent this from having an influence on what I’ve written, in terms of tone or value judgments, and I hope that the end result is the same as if I had gone there on my own dime. I’ve been a user of Gore-Tex products for years, and while I now know a lot more about Gore and Gore-Tex, I’ve tried not to let Gore’s generosity bias these posts.

“30 Days on the Road” is a blog series tracking my travel for thirty days in October and November; from leaving Alaska on October 27th until Steamboat opens on November 25th. Due to a series of cool opportunities I don’t have to be back at a “real job” until 11/26th, and after a summer that seemed way too long, I’ll be making the most of my free month with as much snow and snow industry fun as I can cram in. The goal is two-fold, first to get you pumped about the upcoming season, and two to help keep track of time as I wander aimlessly for a month.

I’ll also be posting updates on Facebook and Twitter, so make sure and check out the action there too.

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